Tetris DS is broken

Nintendo has done the unthinkable, they have broken Tetris. Tetris DS, the package, is still good. It has a varied bunch of game modes, a lot of puzzles to solve, good multiplayer, online play, and a fantastic multiplayer “Push Mode” (the best thing to happen to Tetris since Tetris happened.) Unfortunately, “Classic Mode”, the very essence of Tetris, is irrevocably broken.

Classic mode has a lot of new features that ruin the gameplay of Tetris. The first is that the preview now shows the next six pieces. Secondly, you can now press a shoulder button to “hold” a piece for later. When you need it, you just hit the shoulder button again to swap it with the current falling piece. This ruins the whole risk and reward aspect of trying to clear four lines since you can just hold a long piece and bring it out whenever you have a large enough shaft. You don’t have to wait and hope you don’t screw up.

Worst of all, and this is the one that breaks everything, once a piece touches down it doesn’t instantly stick. They can be moved and rotated even after the tetrominoes have touched down. In the Tetris of yore, the instant that a piece touched down it was out of play and the next one dropped. The whole point of original Tetris was to move falling pieces into a favourable spot while they were still dropping. The further you got, the faster they fell, the more it tested your reflexes until, eventually, you just couldn’t keep up. Everyone lost in the end. The trick was to balance survival time with scoring. That was what made Tetris fun.

Now that you can move pieces after they have landed, the time it takes for the pieces to drop becomes irrelevant. This becomes painfully obvious once you reach level 20 (the attainable goal for the “Classic Marathon”, which unlocks “Endless” mode.) On level 20, the blocks no longer drop. They hit the bottom instantly. Once you get used to that idea and you get it into your head to constantly keep blocks in motion (even if back and forth) and you learn to build upwards in the middle and never along the edges (so that instantly falling pieces don’t get stuck), you get used to dealing with this. Level 20 becomes very beatable.

That is where the problem lies. Pieces can’t fall any faster than instantly, so once you can beat level 20 you can beat level 40 or 400. There is no difference. When you reach that point in your Tetris DS prowess, you are no longer fighting against impossible speeds; you are fighting boredom.

I have a game going right now. It’s paused. I started it Sunday before 5pm and I played for a good hour, handily beating my previous record. I made it far. 6pm was time for Battlestar Galactica, so I paused it. When I resumed I was surprised that I wasn’t throw off by the delay. I played a little while longer. I was getting bored. I paused and put the DS into sleep mode as I packed my stuff and left for home (I was at my parents’ place at the time).

A couple of hours later, at home, I unpaused it and played some more. My hand was cramping. Then the battery light turned red. I paused and plugged the DS into the charger. Later, I played a little bit more. Then another short session in the night as a distraction from other commitments. I slept with the DS paused and charging. After waking, I played it a bit more. There was no sign of a pending game over. It did not get any harder. In fact, the more I played the easier it felt. It was a truly neverending game of Tetris.

By now I’m sick of seeing Tetris blocks. I’m bored to tears with it. I keep playing it, in brief spurts, out of pure masochism. Speed is no longer a factor and the question as to whether Tetris can be played forever comes into play.

While it might be mathematically and theoretically possible to play forever, it is not humanly possible. Not by a long shot. It’s no longer fun. It’s no longer challenging. It’s no longer Tetris. It is broken. Thus, I commit Tetris seppuku, forever ending this one game and symbolically ending any future “Classic Mode” play from me. They’ll have me again when they fix it (or if I play the classic NES or GB — or Tengen — games), but until then… Tetris is dead to me.

The final tally. Level 428. Over 4280 lines (it maxes out at 999). 11,025,010 points.

Tetris DS game over
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